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The Word Guy / Knowledge

'An Hotel' Draws Many Reservations

Q: I notice that the word "hotel" is often preceded with the word "an," as in "We searched for an hotel," but I'm confused. Shouldn't it be "a hotel"? -- Dan LaRosa, via email

A: I'll be glad to check into "an hotel" -- and I even have a ...

Words From the Easy-Bake Oven

Given the ease of slipping off a diet, it's not surprising that many phrases for easy tasks involve food: "duck soup," "can of corn," "piece of cake," "cakewalk." But determining the authentic origins of these terms ISN'T as easy as pie.

--duck ...

Countdown to Controversy

If David Letterman can devise top 10 lists, we letter men and women can do it, too. Here are today's Top 10 Usage Controversies.

The use of ...

10 -- "literally" to mean its opposite: "figuratively," e.g., "His arrogance literally killed me." ...

What Hath God 'Fraught'?

Q: Would you please discuss the proper usage of the word "fraught"? I had an English teacher who told us that one should not say, "The inkwell is fraught with ink," but she said "The situation is fraught with danger" is OK. -- Jan Birnie, Enfield,...

Linguists at the End of Their Rope

Can you find 25 usage errors in the following story about a tug of war between the Prescriptivists and the Descriptivists?:

The battle began with a hoard of tweedy English professors on the P side and a large amount of dictionary editors in blue ...

From Rags to Witches

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I coached a boys cross country running team. During practice, these runners donned such a motley assortment of torn T-shirts, ratty sweat pants and frayed shorts that I sometimes called them "ragamuffins." Mischievous ...